Monday, March 19, 2012

Thomas Keller's Poached Eggs

Poached Egg on Toast
So hey: this weekend I poached eggs for the first time. It probably seems weird for a food blogger to have never done it before, but you have to realize I am a reformed picky eater as well... and poached eggs were definitely not in my diet as a youngin'. Realizing the awesomeness of breaking into a poached egg and having "yellow gold" saturate everything is something that is relatively new to me... so it's hard for me to say whether or not they've become more trendy lately. However it certainly seems like there has been a school of thought developing which says "everything is better with a poached egg on top." As I'm not even entirely sure I could come up with a serious argument against that proposition, it seemed like a good thing to learn how to do. However, everybody always says they're super hard to make and acts like you need to be some sort of Iron Chef to not screw it up... so I was pretty intimidated by the whole concept. Thus it remained on my cooking bucket list until the April 2012 Bon App├ętit arrived in my mailbox.

Poached Egg on Toast with Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Sauce
Within those pages was a recipe from Thomas Keller for "the Perfect Poach". The basic concept here is to a) use vinegar to tighten up the whites, and b) stir the water so it's like a whirlpool when you dump the egg in. The vinegar will be no surprise to veteran egg poachers, but what I think is fairly novel here is using an entire 1/2 cup per egg... and having the egg sit in it for 5 minutes before poaching. You can actually see the whites visibly tighten up over this period of time which is kind of cool. The whirlpool part is also unusual as these recipes go but it's not hard to manage. I did accidentally whack my first egg with the whisk, leading to a broken yolk and overcooked egg... but it didn't take long to learn how to stir the water without endangering the egg. I'd advise using a fairly big pot for this... not a medium saucepan as suggested by the recipe... to make sure you have room to stir the water. In addition, I'm not sure the instruction "as soon as water returns to a boil, reduce heat to medium and gently simmer egg, frequently swirling water, for 2 minutes" is exactly accurate. If you wait until the water returns to a boil and then go for 2 minutes I think you'll have an overcooked egg... you kind of have to know what a poached egg looks like and turn down the heat and start the timer once the whites are tight and starting to set.

Anyway, I really recommend trying this recipe if you've always wanted to poach an egg but have been intimidated by its presumed difficulty. It's not as hard as you think!